Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sing-Off: Glee, Without the Suck!

Yes, I still watch Glee.  As skeevy as Mr. Schu can be, Matthew Morrison is yummy and has an incredible voice (still jealous that my mom got to meet him in 2002 when he was in Hairspray on Broadway).  As annoying as Rachel can be, Lea Michele can sure wail.  Quinn and Sam are cute.  Brittany's funny when she's part of the C plot and the occasional A plot.  Mike O'Malley's the best dad ever, and the Darren Criss-led "Teenage Dream" has inspired obsession from me and my sister.  (O hai, Darren Criss.  Please don't be gay.  Please.)

Speaking of "Teenage Dream," I hate the original version.  So why do I love the cover, other than the fact it's sung by people who can actually sing?

The fact that it's a cappella.

You see, I am an a cappella nerd.  When I was in college, I auditioned for my university's group to no avail.  My brother, lucky bastard, has been in two different groups, one of which paid him to sing all summer.  And when Ben Folds released his University A Cappella album last year, it was like peanut butter meeting chocolate for me.  My only complaint is that there wasn't a version of "Zak and Sara" (my all time favorite Ben song).

Last year, I got into a little show called The Sing-Off on NBC, a mini-series of sorts in which a cappella groups from around the country competed for a big cash prize and a record deal.  I loved it, down to host Nick Lachey, his corny puns, and his constant, constant insistence that it was A CAPPELLA, NO ACCOMPANIMENT, JUST VOICES, DID I MENTION IT'S A CAPPELLA, DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS IT'S NO VOICES!

This year, it's even more indulgent, more group-y, more dorky and therefore more awesome.

Here's how it works: ten a cappella groups compete for, once again, a cash prize and a record deal.  You've got everyone from a high school group where EVERYONE'S TOTALLY DIFFERENT (but of course the Homecoming Queen is the lead singer, and I spy a purity ring, EW) to the pretentious yet virginal Whiffenpoofs from Yale to a bunch of old dudes led by someone named Jerry Lawson who apparently was a big deal back in the day (anyone?).

You also have an L.A. group called the Backbeats, featuring one of Bob's friends, who happens to have a really good voice and looks adorable on TV.

Judging these musical folk are former Boyz II Men falsetto Shawn Stockman--who's largely useless, aka The Randy, Pussycat Dolls (former?) member Nicole Scherzinger (need I say she's the Paula?  Slightly more coherent though), and one of my personal musical heroes, the incomparable Ben Folds (who unlike Simon isn't an asshole with man boobs, but who like Simon gives good, helpful critiques).

A cappella takes a tremendous amount of skill, which I could never reach despite years of voice lessons and choirs.  You must possess a flawless ear: so you can pick up your own part in an arrangement and also so you can tune out the seven singers around you who are all blaring different things.  No divas, please--you must be able to blend.  Beatboxing helps.  It's intense.

Also, most a cappella puts a new spin on songs, unlike more and more of Glee lately (I do not need another shot-for-shot Britney Spears video.  Come on, Ryan Murphy).

My personal favorites are the aforementioned Backbeats (come on, one of them slept on my couch last year!  Oh yeah, and they're really good), Street Corner Symphony (gotta love Southern hipster boys), and Groove for Thought (oh my God, they're a group of music teachers from Seattle that include a father and daughter, and they're soooo dorky but they totally own it).  I also hesitated to root for Committed because they are really, really religious and that weirds me out, but my God, they sound like Boyz II Men 2.0 and I was a huuuuge Boyz II Men fan in the '90's.  When I was 14, all I wanted was to dance to "On Bended Knee" with a boy who loved me.

So let's sum this up: The Sing-Off is just like Glee, only without:

  • Auto Tune
  • That stupid "school jazz band" that conveniently appears and disappears whenever
  • Finn (need I say more?)
  • Santana and Brittany's manufactured fauxbian drama (either do a queer-girl storyline--please do, it would be interesting!--or don't.  And give Santana some motivation for her actions other than just being a heinous bitch).
  • Pregnancy
How can you NOT?  Tune in Monday and Wednesday this week!

Here are a few of my favorite performances:


  1. Street Corner Symphony is my favorite! I may or may not have a small crush on the lead singer.

    And thanks for the plug!

  2. We're so addicted to this show in my house (and everyone at work, too). I love Committed! My husband loves Street Corner Symphony. My son loves the music teachers.

  3. I almost watched this show for Ben Folds alone, but I just thought it was a regular singing competition. I had no idea it's a capella! I may have to check it out now.
    My favorite song on the university a capella album is Boxing.

  4. Thanks for the comments, y'all!

    Meg--I may or may not have a crush on that lead singer as well. I love me some singing Southern boys.

    Shannon--According to my "insider" in the Backbeats, Committed is going to do very well. Just a hint.

    Nikki--Definitely look up the reruns on Hulu! The groups are SO good! And I love Boxing too, though my favorite on the album is Landed. The lead soloist on Still Fighting It went to high school with my brother.

  5. I kind of like this show. The judges, OTHER than Ben Folds, turn me off of the show. My pet peeve is the insistence that the judges (*cough Shawn*) think the song should have been interpreted their way, and they proceed to wail out whatever they thought they should have heard. Not the point, dude. I normally make it through the first hour before this obnoxiousness drives me crazy.

    I totally agree about the Britney episode and Will suddenly becoming a sleaze. But they're improving-- I cried during the wedding and Christmas episodes.

    Sing Off/Glee connection: I heard somewhere that the Warblers (the prep-school's glee club) are actually from the super-fun Beelzebub group from The Sing Off last year. :-)

  6. Classbookworm: I SO agree about any judge not named Ben Folds. What drove me crazy was the "rock songs" category of Monday's show. Each group has a different style, and it's natural they're going to adapt a rock song to that style. Plus, when I think rock, I think instruments. I don't think a cappella. Finally, if you're going to get on Groove for Thought and Committed for not being "rockin'" enough, then don't praise Jerry Lawson for doing the freaking Rolling Stones in a doo-wop way.

    See, I was oddly turned on by Will in the Britney episode. "Toxic" was one of the few songs I liked because they put a new spin on it and didn't try to do a shot-for-shot video remake (if I want to watch a Britney Spears video, I'll watch the original). I thought the Sectionals ep was fantastic, though--agreed about the improvements.

    OMG, I LOVED the Beezebubs ("Come Sail Away" was so adorable, and they're way better than On the Rocks this year)! Speaking of last year's groups, the female beatboxer in the Backbeats was in the all-girl group from BYU. She was later kicked out of that group for being a lesbian. I'm so glad she's back, and I'm sure the Backbeats are way more accepting!